Thursday, July 07, 2016
Episode 2.1: A Divine Appointment
What is a divine appointment? Tuesday, sitting on the tarmac in Atlanta, waiting for takeoff, I began to sense that God had different plans than what we had originally designed. Don’t think I’m a prophet or son of a prophet, I can just read a watch! Every time the pilot spoke through intercom to the cabin, our departure time was further delayed, and each time, I looked at my seat-mates Jeff and Gwen Wiggs, and smiled, saying, “God may have a different idea about this than we do.” As it became abundantly clear we were unlikely to make our connecting flight from Mexico City to Zihuatanejo, I started thinking about Acts 16:6-10, where the author tells us that the apostle Paul’s mission team was prevented by the Spirit to speak the Word in Asia and Bithynia, and instead, Paul receives a midnight vision compelling him to go to Macedonia. I wondered, “What is God up to?”
Meanwhile, another short-term missionary, named Mike was on his way from San Antonio, Texas to Peru, when his plane was delayed in Mexico City. Like us, he discovered that he would be grounded until today, and he decided to find a bench at the airport and wait out the 18 hours until his flight. Mike would share with me that he didn’t know why the Lord stopped him, but he had a sense that God was up to something. By around 1pm today, both Mike and I had a better idea of what God was doing.
Shortly after checking our bags today for a second attempt at a flight to Zihuatanejo, our team debated on whether to get lunch before or after going through security. For the sake of time, I thought it would be wise to get through then stop for lunch. The team, and God, had a different idea.
After ordering pizza at the airport food court, I sat down to wait. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and two men asked if they could read the back of my shirt (Psalm 96:2-3). This began a conversation with the aforementioned Mike and a gentleman named Ulysses, whom Mike had met 5 hours before while walking through the airport. I learned that Ulysses was a motorcycle mechanic from Tijuana, Mexico, who had spent many adventures in the United States, including bungee jumping off the New River Gorge Bridge in my home state of West Virginia. Ulysses has experienced much brokenness, including 17 bones in his body. He shared that the last two years had been particularly difficult for him, including the death of his mother and bone cancer, which led to the loss of half of his left leg. He has struggled to find work, is now homeless, and has been living at the airport in Mexico City for the past 17 days. As Mike left to get on his plane, he shared with Ulysses the hope of a new body through the resurrection in the last day. With tears in his eyes, Ulysses then shared with me the deep struggles and hopelessness he felt because of his circumstances, and he expressed doubts over whether life was worth living and if God really cared. I then began to share with him that Jesus’ suffering in our place proves that God looks at us with eternal love and that he has shown to us our worth through the cross. Ulysses listened intently, saying, “I hope this is true,” and this gave me opportunity to share with him that he could have a saving relationship with Jesus that may not change his temporal circumstances but would give him an eternal hope. Ulysses gave me permission to pray with him, and he thanked me for taking time with him.
God’s providential restructuring of Paul’s plans led Paul’s team to Philippi, where a wealthy business woman, a poor slave girl and a hardened, retired Roman soldier-turned jailer became the unexpected core group for the planting of a church that would become a pivotal partner in God’s mission through the work of the Apostle Paul to take the gospel to the nations. God’s providential restructuring of the plans of a team of short-term missionaries from Raleigh, NC and one from San Antonio, TX, led us to a broken man, desperately wondering if God had abandoned him, and if life were worth living. Unlike the formation of the church at Philippi, I may never know on this side of glory what will come of Ulysses, but I am convinced that this was one of the many divine appointments God puts in our lives to transform us and others with the good news of a God who entered our brokenness to make us new through the sacrifice of Jesus. Please pray for Ulysses and for the many other divine appointments the Lord sends our way this week, and ask the Lord the work through you as you serve as His missionaries wherever He has placed you.